The GOP-orchestrated government shutdown has finally come to its inevitable conclusion. For fifteen days, many of us were keenly aware of the effect it had on the country, some more than others. Federal employees furloughed; services such as WIC frozen, along with other “non-essential” programs such as Head Start, the EPA, and the NIH; and of course, the much-protested closing of America’s national parks and monuments. I’m one of the lucky ones — neither I nor my family were affected harshly by the shutdown, we were merely inconvenienced. The main thing I noticed was the increase in right wing oriented posts from my Facebook “friends”, which is to say that I have been employing the “Hide” option more than usual lately. Some have been doing it to the exclusion of all else, and in those cases I’ve simply thrown up my hands in defeat and unfriended them altogether. After one of these mass Hiding sessions, it occurred to me that the majority of these off-the-wall posts came from people I knew in my youth. Back then, they were the wildest people I knew: the partiers, the stoners, the rebels. Now in middle age, nearly all of them have veered so far to the right they’re a hair’s breadth away from being off the rails. At first, this seemed like an anomaly. How did these wild children become so uptight? But upon further inspection I realized that it actually makes perfect sense.
These kids typically hated school and resisted learning. They ridiculed the “brains” and the “nerds” in class for being too smart and too studious. They lauded the “troublemakers” and the “loudmouths”, even if their antics ended up making more work for everyone else.
They bucked authority at every turn — teachers, preachers, principals, parents. At the same time they followed their herd and rarely fell out of step with whoever was the designated leader.
Now compare this with the average Tea Party conservative. The description is remarkably similar. They bristle under any type of authority, only now the government has taken over the role of “The Man” from principals and parents. They look at learning with distaste, and hold open contempt for those with higher levels of education. They distrust those who are different from themselves and blame them for the ills of society, never opening their eyes to the reality that their possessive mentality — “What’s mine is mine and forget everyone else,” — is perpetuating the cycle they decry. They keep in lock-step with their party and look with awe at the loudmouths and troublemakers such as Ted Cruz, Michele Bachmann, and Sarah Palin, even as their heroes lead them off a cliff into a deeper abyss of poverty, illness, and ignorance.
Taking all this into consideration, one realizes that the free spirits of our youth were never truly that free. Their middle-aged, small-minded rigidity is a natural progression from a self-absorbed, narrow-minded adolescent immaturity that they have never outgrown.